Manchester By The Sea. An astonishing look at crippling sadness that will keep you riveted to the big screen. Casey Affleck is Uncle Lee who has to return to his hometown to care for his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges) after Lee’s brother dies. Unprepared to be a guardian for an active teenager, Lee struggles with his new role as the events of his past bubble up to explain his distance and his melancholy. Lee discovers that he must confront his past and that the solution to his gloom is right in front of him with his family and friends from whom he ran away. This film will be an Oscar contender for acting, directing, music and writing so be sure to see it. Rated R for language throughout and some sexual content. It is a Peggy’s Pick.
Bad Santa 2. The title tells it all, this is a bad movie. Not funny at all. Rather it is the pinnacle of politically incorrect comedy. It’s the most disgusting, vile, perverted, racist, sexist film of the year – maybe even of the decade. Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some graphic nudity.
Nocturnal Animals. Director Tom Ford brings us a chilling story inside a story. The present part follows Susan (Amy Adams) who runs an avant-garde art gallery in Los Angeles. The opening sequence is quite off putting but is indicative of what “art” has become. Susan receives a novel manuscript from Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) her ex-husband of 20 years ago. Edward has dedicated the book to her and asks her for her opinion. The second past part unfolds the events in the novel called “Nocturnal Animals” as Susan reads it. The novel is about the Hastings Family who is accosted by a group of weirdoes on a deserted West Texas highway. The father, Tom (also Jake Gyllenhaal) escapes the weirdoes but his wife and daughter are not so lucky. The film flashes back to Susan’s life with Edward, which requires her to confront who she is and the very dark secrets that she has carried with her. In a word, the film is about revenge – when served cold it is most sweet. The film is hard to watch but also will keep you hooked as the performances are remarkable and the pace of the film makes for unrelenting tension. Rated R for violence, menace, graphic nudity, and language.
Rules Don’t Apply. Hollywood icon Warren Beatty wrote and directed this vanity piece that is ostensibly about Howard Hughes (played by Beatty) but it is not. The film is about Hollywood as the studio system crumbles and the world changes in the 1950s and 1960s. A young actress, Marla, (Lily Collins) and her striving young driver, Frank, (Alden Ehrenreich) both work for RKO, Hughes’ studio. They confront the ludicrous quirks of Mr. Hughes. Marla is a small town beauty queen, devout Baptist and a virgin. Frank is from Fresno, who is engaged to be married to his 7th grade sweetheart and is a deeply religious Methodist. Frank and Marla are young and have an instant sexual attraction that their religious convictions and Mr. Hughes’s rule can only suppress for a while. The film is their love story as the crazy world of Hollywood and Hughes impact their lives and the world changes, forever. The film is historically interesting as the bizarre world of Hughes is recreated, as is the world of motion pictures in a time of great transformation. Rated PG-13 for sexual material including brief strong language, thematic elements, and drug references.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Famed Director Ang Lee brings us his vision of war and its unseen impacts and costs. We see the Iraqi war and its aftermath through the eyes of 19 year-old private Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) who becomes a war hero after a daring rescue attempt in an Iraq battle. He comes home for a short time in a victory tour with, with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad. We experience the terror of war through his flashbacks. At a spectacular halftime show on a Thanksgiving Day football game, Billy and his squad become particularly unglued in the face of incredible hypocrisy. The film is noteworthy since Director Lee uses new technology – high-speed frame rate and high definition to create an amazing digital experience bringing the war into incredible sharp focus. But the story just does not connect – too many impossible situations and over the top dramatizations that are unbelievable. Rated R for language throughout, some war violence, sexual content, and brief drug use.
Allied. They don’t make movies like this anymore – a love story wrapped around a spy thriller set during World War II – with a focus on great characters played by real movie stars. Brad Pitt (Max) is a Canadian Air Force officer on special assignment. Marion Cotillard (Marianne) is a French Resistance fighter. In 1942 they are assigned to assassinate the German Ambassador in French Morocco. They do so with a lot of skill and a bit of luck. Of course they fall hopelessly in love. They relocate to London; marry, have a child and appear to be a perfect young couple living through the blitz. Their idyll unravels as Marianne is suspected of being a spy and Max breaks all of the rules to prove her innocence. Their chemistry is played out well on the big screen. Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity, language and brief drug use.
The Edge of Seventeen. Reminiscent of Porky’s, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and American Pie with a dash of Juno. Teenage angst and discovery are cleverly combined in this coming of age story. Growing up is hard to do and it is especially so for high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld). She has achieved extreme gawkiness when her popular senior brother Darian (Blake Jenner) starts dating her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). Nadine feels more isolated and geekier than ever, but she has a high school history teacher (a brilliant Woody Harrelson) who is able to steer her back on track with wit and sympathy. Even a young boy in her class takes an interest in her. She begins to have a bit of hope and realizes she is special and has a lot to offer. This is a modern film that older teenagers should see because it rings true, will make you laugh and will help in surviving those rough teenage years. Rated R for sexual content, language and some drinking – all involving teens. It is a Peggy’s Pick.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This Harry Potter prequel written by J.K. Rowling invites us back into her world of wizards and sorcery. Set in New York in 1926, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has traveled the world to find and record for a book, a bizarre collection of magical creatures. Arriving in New York his trip might have been uneventful but for a No-Maj (American for Muggle), Jacob Kowalski, mistaking Newt’s magical case for his own lets some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape from the case. The film then follows Newt all over North America to recapture the beasts, which leads him into an internecine war among the wizards of the world. The film’s set up is a bit confusing and contributes to overly long series of escapes, shootouts and evil doings; tighter editing would have made this a great movie. But, as in all of her stories, Rowling delivers characters we care about and wanting more – not to worry this is the first of five Newt Scamander adventures. Rated PG-13 for some fantasy action violence.
The King and I. At the Golden Gate in San Francisco through December 11, 2016. The Rogers and Hammerstein classic is brought back to the stage in a wonderful production, featuring most of the Broadway revival cast – Winner of the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival. Songs such “Getting To Know You,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “Shall We Dance” and “Something Wonderful” will bring back memories. Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the actual story of the unusual and stormy relationship between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher who the progressive King, in a traditional world, brings to Bangkok to teach his many wives and children. This is one to see and it is a Peggy’s and Molly’s Pick – Molly is our theatre going friend. Suitable for the whole family.
Arrival. Finally a sci-fi flick that not only bends time but delivers a surprising twist. Mysterious spacecraft arrive at multiple locations around the globe. They hover over the ground and periodically invite people into their no gravity giant pod. A US team assembles in Montana to make contact with the enigmatic aliens. Are they friend or foe? An expert linguist, Louise Banks (Amy Adams), begins to decipher their circular script and clicks and groans. The Chinese and Russians grow impatient with their aliens and are about to start a global war when Louise intuits a break through. She has to risk her own life to save humanity and in the process changes humanity. The film delivers great performances, cinematography, soundtrack, editing and direction for an enjoyable experience. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
Doctor Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch is Dr. Stephen Strange, an egotistical and hyper talented neurosurgeon. After a debilitating car accident leaves his hands unusable he sets out to find a cure. He must set aside his insufferable ego and learn a secret mysticism that will give him super powers. As “Doctor Strange” he wears his cape well. Based on the Marvel comics, Doctor Strange interacts between the real world and the world beyond. Employing an arsenal of supernatural abilities and ancient talismans, Doctor Strange saves the world from evil. The film is just wonderful escapist fun; non-stop action, touches of humor and great special effects. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence. Note, stay through the last of the end credits.
The Eagle Huntress. This fascinating documentary follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl from a nomadic Mongolian family. For many generations, fathers have taught their sons how to hunt with Golden Eagles. Aisholpan decides to become the first female eagle hunter in uncounted generations of her Kazakh family. She must first capture an eaglet from its nest and then train it – she does. The film uses breathtaking aerial cinematography intercut with intimate close ups of family life and experiences of living in such a harsh environment. The documentary captures a young girl’s personal journey, against the background of old traditions giving way to a modern world. This is a fabulous experience for young women to see what female empowerment is. But note it is in Kazakh with English subtitles so reading skill is required. The film could also just be watched for its amazing visuals. It is rated G and is a Peggy’s Pick.
Almost Christmas. A dysfunctional family gathers in Birmingham, Alabama for their first Christmas since their wife/mother has died. She was the glue that kept the family together. Walter Meyers (Danny Glover) tries to recreate some of his late wife’s favorite Christmas dinner dishes – he fails miserably. As the children, in-laws, spouses and grandchildren arrive at the old family home old peeves are relived. New gripes are voiced and the tensions mount. The Meyers family is just living a modern day soap opera but with lots of laughs. Many outrageous moments coupled with a few warm and fuzzy moments make this film worthwhile. Rated PG-13 for suggestive material, drug content and language.
Loving. Richard and Mildred Loving are an interracial couple. In 1958 they married in Washington, DC but when they returned to their home in Virginia, they are felons in direct violation of Virginia’s anti miscegenation law. They are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 but if they leave the Commonwealth, their sentences are suspended. Their legal case finds its way to the US Supreme Court, which unanimously invalidates all anti miscegenation laws. Their legal case is well known, but this film is about two people who are deeply in love and who just want to be left alone to raise their family. They get caught up in a whirlwind of racism and change that they stoically let run its course to its historic conclusion. Ruth Negga as Mildred and Joel Edgerton as Richard turn in Oscar worthy performances, so don’t miss this one. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements. It is a Peggy’s Pick.
Hacksaw Ridge. No matter what you think of Mel Gibson, he knows how to make a great movie. This is the true story Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, a devout Seventh Day Adventist and Conscientious Objector who enlisted in the Army at the start of WWII to save lives, not to take them. The film is in two parts as we meet Desmond in his hardscrabble Virginia farm with an abusive father but a strong mother. Desmond falls hopelessly in love with an Army Nurse and we feel their romance. But the war beckons as Desmond has huge issues with basic training and carrying a weapon. The Army brass bends a bit and allows Desmond to serve as an unarmed Medic in the Battle of Okinawa. While under fire he single handedly saves over 75 servicemen by dragging them off the battlefield to safety. His heroics earn him the Medal of Honor, the first awarded to a Conscientious Objector. The war scenes are graphically horrific with blood, guts and gore splattered all over the screen. Rated R for intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images. Peggy is boycotting Mel Gibson films so did not see it.
Moonlight. An amazing story of a young black boy, Chiron, who struggles to grow up, connect, and know himself. Told in thee parts, we first meet Chiron, as a small boy who is bullied by his schoolmates, has no father and whose mother is getting hooked on drugs. His only male role model is his mother’s drug dealer. In part 2 Chiron is the butt of jokes and harassment in high school. His mother is now wasted due to drugs. He despairs but his best friend Kevin gives him hope when their relationship takes a turn. But Kevin betrays Chiron who then over reacts and finds himself in prison. In part 3 Chiron is a grown man making a living on the streets. He has grown into a strong man who no one bullies. Kevin reaches out to Chiron ten years later and these grown men realize they had something special years before and connect. This is hard hitting and brutally honest story of human connection and self-discovery. Rated R for some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout. It is a Peggy’s Pick with a caution that the film’s themes are intense and may disturb.
Keeping Up with the Joneses. Don’t waste your time on this lame attempt at comedy. Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher are the Gaffneys, typical suburbanites living the American dream in their cul-de-sac. The Jones move in next door (Jon Hamm and Gal Godot). They are a very toney couple but also secret spies. The Gaffneys get caught up in the Jones’ espionage escapades with predictable car chases, shootouts and things blowing up. The only bright spot in the movie is Isla Fisher’s talent for physical comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, action, violence and brief strong language.
Inferno. If you read the book, you will be sorely disappointed in this movie – key plot elements are drastically changed. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is back as the famous symbologist. This time he follows clues based on Dante’s Inferno. Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia. He teams up with his Doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), as he tries to recover his memories. Together they travel through Florence, Venice and Istanbul to stop a madman from releasing a global virus that could wipe out half of the world’s population. As a travelogue of these grand cities, the film is most interesting. As a thriller, it does not deliver, as the plot is overly complicated and at times farcical. Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality.
Christine. Rebecca Hall is superb in this biopic of 1970s TV news reporter Christine Chubbuck. Christine works for a Sarasota, Florida TV station covering local news, politics and community events. She wants to be a serious TV journalist but her station prefers car accidents, shootings and crime. Christine is frustrated and seriously depressed when on July 15, 1974 she decides to give the public what they want and shoots herself in the head on live TV. The film is stunning as Christine dissembles before our eyes. Her frustration and depression lead her to an extreme act that solved no problems but in this film gives us a peek into a disturbed mind. Rated R for a scene of disturbing violence and for language including some sexual references.
Michael Moore in TrumpLand. Comedian and documentarian Michael Moore takes his polemic to Wilmington, Ohio – the center of Trump voters in Ohio. He invites local voters to The Murphy Theatre where Moore in a stand up comic like routine deconstructs Trump and the American history that created the current political environment. Moore is never mean but does call to task politicians from whatever stripe. Moore is quite clever and funny. He even makes the hostile citizens of Wilmington laugh and applaud. This film is a treat and available on iTunes. Not rated but would be R for language. It is a Peggy’s Pick.
Boo! A Madea Halloween. Tyler Perry is back with his latest Madea adventure – he should retire her. This adventure is boring and the comedy quite forced. Madea and her cohorts (mostly costumed Tyler Perry) are charged with keeping two teenage girls away from a Fraternity party and fail miserably. It happens to be Halloween night so there are ghosts, poltergeists, ghouls and goblins to scare everyone. The film tries to exploit comically every stereotype but comes up way short, as nothing is remotely believable. Perry does engineer a big homily at the end, but by then no credibility is left. Rated PG-13 for drug use and references, suggestive content, language, some horror images and thematic material.
Jack Reacher; Never Go Back. Tom Cruise is back as Jack Reacher, loner and one man wrecking crew. Jack gets drawn into a government conspiracy where his old Army group is covering up a scandal. He is in personal jeopardy as is his successor, Major Turner (Cobie Smulders). He must clear her name as well as his. They are on the run as fugitives from the law while also being pursued by goons. Reacher discovers a complication from his past that could change his life forever and compromises his efforts to expose the bad guys. Needless to say there are endless chases, shoot-outs and fistfights. The film is enjoyable as pure escapism but not much more. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, language and thematic elements.